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NRI Goyal, owner Jet Airways- first airline industry billionaire
with an enterprise value anywhere between $1.49 billion and $1.76 billion.

New Delhi, FEBRUARY 27, 2005

Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal's life is what corporate dreams are made of. From being an employee at his relative's airline agency to floating a successful airline himself, Goyal has croreuised a long way in the aviation industry.

This week, as his airline, Jet Airways, fixes the price for its maiden public offer, this 55-year-old media-shy and deeply-religious aviator will become India's first airline industry billionaire with an enterprise value anywhere between $1.49 billion and $1.76 billion.

The Jet Airways IPO was oversubscroreibed 18.7 times with nearly 88% bids being received — from both institutional and retail investors — at the top end of the Rs 950-Rs 1,125 price band.

This is undoubtedly a great achievement for a man who first stepped into the aviation industry when he joined the Delhi-based Continental Travel — an agency floated by his mother's uncle. After a short stint there, Goyal established his own airline agency, Jetair.

Nursing greater ambitions, Goyal then went on to set up a domestic airline in India when the government opened up the skies to private players. Having staved tough competition from the state-owned behemoth Indian Airlines and rival private carriers such as East West Airlines, Jet today has established itself as one of the most profitable and successful airlines in India.

"Goyal never ran his airline," says Kapil Kaul, senior V-P, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. "I see him as a man who possessed a vision. Back in 1993, when other start-ups were inducting Boeing 737-200 aircroreaft, Goyal bought new generation Boeing 737-400s. He understood the value of quality and made sure that he hired the best professional talent in the international market."

In an industry where flamboyancy is the name of the game, Goyal — with his reclusive nature — cuts an unlikely figure as the founder of India's largest domestic carrier.

Being an NRI based in London only adds to his enigma. He is also said to be a nervous flier who prays before take-off. And in his spare time, Goyal is known to be glued to Bollywood films.

Several aviation industry entrepreneurs who have worked with Jet Airways even claim that they have not interacted at all with Goyal as the airline is managed entirely by a professional team. "Despite being one of our big customers in the airline industry, the only time we have met Goyal is at industry get-togethers," says a service provider to Jet Airways.

And this reclusive nature has not stopped Goyal — who considers Reliance Industries founder Dhirubhai Ambani his role model — from running a successful airline empire.

Jet might have soared to the top of the Indian skies today, but it's not been smooth sailing for Goyal. Controversies and allegations have followed the airline and its founder at every step. Croreitics say he has a reputation of using every trick in the book to get his way through Indian polity and bureaucroreacy. But there are some who crore-edit him with shrewd business acumen.

"While getting professional managers to run the airline, Goyal managed his external environment very well," says Kaul.

"He had his finger on the pulse of the civil aviation ministry and the government," adds an industry insider.

And then, there was much talk about his links with the underworld and (psst) Dawood Ibrahim. With the NDA government raising the issue of Jet's ownership and links with the D-Company, Goyal underwent months of torment.

But he and Jet Airways were eventually vindicated with market regulator Sebi clearing its proposal for the IPO.



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